Mayors vote to suspend plan to increase user fees

At the Mayors' Council meeting Wednesday, the body approved a motion to suspend the user fee increase plan for now, until at least fiscal year 2023. (PNC photo)

The pandemic has hurt the finances of the Mayors’ Council of Guam but in the face of potential drastic cuts to program funding, they are suspending a potential revenue earning plan to help their constituents.

The Mayors’ Council of Guam is facing a $2.8 million budget shortfall. But despite this fiscal challenge, the body decided to put on hold a proposal for user fee increases for certain services at the mayors’ offices.

With several months to go until the end of the fiscal year, Mayors Council Executive Director Angel Sablan says the council is reporting a revenue loss from the current year appropriations and they are requesting the governor to provide additional funds so that they can carry through to the next fiscal year.

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Sablan says the shortfall will impact personnel, utilities, and different programs at the village level such as street maintenance for islandwide beautification and public safety.

Sablan says that the MCOG President — Piti Mayor Jesse Alig — is working on securing those funds which will be taken out from the American Rescue Plan appropriations for Guam.

“The street maintenance funding was drastically over 65 percent. Same thing for the islandwide beautification programs. Those are the funds that the mayors use mostly for operations for carrying out those programs. If we don’t get an infusion of funds into those programs, the mayors would have to drastically cut back on the services that they provide. But the Governor has assured us that they will assist us,” Sablan said.

The mayors already received a reduced budget this fiscal year and several months ago, the mayors started to consider other means to pay for much-needed services and programs in their communities.

The user fee schedule — which is submitted to the legislature for approval — sets a rate for the use of equipment as well as community and recreational facilities under the jurisdiction of the mayors. That list includes community and senior centers and parks. It also sets a rate for certain services such as providing funeral escort and copying services.

The plan was revived this fiscal year as a possible source of funding for the repair and maintenance of the facilities and equipment at the different villages.

At the Mayors’ Council meeting Wednesday, the body approved a motion to suspend the user fee increase plan for now, until at least fiscal year 2023.

‘It’s been under consideration by the Mayors’ Council for some time now but with this pandemic, I don’t think that it would be fair to ask people to pay for services that their taxpayers go to like the use of a facility, or borrowing a canopy or chair or for funeral escort or things like that…even mayor’s verification. So we want to help our island recover and I think asking our residents, who are hurting, to pay up more money is not the right thing to do,” Sablan said.